In September of last year I made a release date purchase, a rarity for me these days, of Destiny. First off, I did not enter the latest Bungie game with delusions of grandeur. Going in there was an expectation of some fun and possibly kill a few hours. Mostly, the game was bought with the idea of playing with my older brother who was very interested in the game. More or less the game delivered for us as expected. My brother just happened to get hooked on it a bit. Doing his bounties daily and finding a random clan which to dive into the Vault of Glass with. Me? I had little interest in such things. PlayStation Plus gives me so many new games regularly to sink my teeth in that I couldn’t be arsed to play Destiny for so many more hours. Destiny felt like the social media of games. Meaning, it is an illusion of activity. In the end you are doing repeated actions thinking you are progressing in some form but really you do it because it makes you feel comfortable. That is perfectly fine. I specifically still played Destiny occasionally to talk to my brother. The in-game activity was second fiddle to the conversation. But it gave us something to do. So Destiny being like that is not a negative but it definitely feels old after some time. If I want to talk to my brother, I’ll call him.
This changes a bit with the arrival of Destiny’s second expansion, House of Wolves. Was not too keen on buying the first expansion, the Dark Below, with another raid not doing anything to sell me on forking over money. Falling out of like with the Destiny formula, spending only an hour into the House of Wolves brought me back. How can a game so devoid of personality and atmosphere spew more of that in an snapshot of gameplay than the majority of the retail title? You will not confuse the game for some sweeping epic like Mass Effect but somehow things feel so much more lively. The voiceover work probably had something to do with it. I love me some Dinklage but I feel it is rather clear that he did not add a good amount to the main stories adventure. Maybe it is the fact that the story does not feel like this weird ambiguous thing but a more grounded tail. A short tale that leads into the new bounties. Truly all I needed. Essentially the story is the Wolves being a bunch of evil jerks and you have to hunt them down. Having a mission go back to the original starting area was rather nice. That part of the journey seemed to be largely dismissed yet it probably stood out as much as anything when playing the main story. Here, I loved exploring a place I had been but had not been able to have any true experience with. Plus, I thought the missions were equal parts fun and challenging which are always nice.
There is also some sweet new Crucible maps in House of Wolves. There is Black Shield, Thieves’ Den, Widow’s Court, and Timekeeper. Crucible is where I spend most of my time and the new maps did not disappoint. Playing Control more often than not, these matches really needed to work in that mode and for the most part they did just that. Timekeeper does the worst job of making the transition into this mode. Seems like more of a Rumble match or a 3v3 match but it is simply too crowded with players and control points with 6v6 control. Widow’s Court comes off the most atmospheric with the gothic architecture in place. Thieves’ Den is incredibly fun with tons of twists in the match. Easy enough to pick off people by control points but getting to the points is an exercise in short range action. Black Shield is simply a map that feels totally comfortable which is not a bad thing.
What got me to bite the bullet on House of Wolves was the Prison of Elders. This is the new arena mode for Destiny. Think Gears of War Horde Mode or Halo’s Firefight. Since Firefight was some of the most fun times I had with those games, I couldn’t help but be at least moderately excited. Something I have wanted from this game from about the beginning. Felt like an obvious way to play with friends, or not, and still have an easy pick-up and play experience. Strikes are nice and all but get rather boring after a while.
How was the Prison? Honestly, not quite what I had hoped for. Destiny finally made me bite an idea without knowing all about it. Had to happen eventually. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed what I played but it was a bit different then I had expected. There is a level 28, 32, 34 and 35 run of the Prison of Elders and the first run was pretty fun. Each run features five rounds of three waves with a boss at the end. It got the right amount of hectic and the challenges within the waves made it so it wasn’t simply killing the waves. Usually they were simple destroy objects or stand under them for a few seconds. The final boss took some patients but was a fun time.
Then I tried the 32 run. Wow, a bit less fun at times. So many enemies on the screen it became disorienting. There were two bosses in the last two rounds. Both took over 20 minutes and we never even finished the last boss. This was with a fire team communicating and at level 32. The final boss made us feel like we couldn’t make a dent. Even with a grand strategy, the enemies just came in too great a number. It isn’t like the maps are large enough to really pick off layers. That is where it felt the mode rang hollow. With Gears of War, there were plenty of enemies trying to murder you but the Horde mode felt like an intense game of hide and seek. You could get surrounded easily but you also had a way of planning ahead so that it didn’t happen or do this crazy thing where you fought out of it. With Firefight in Halo, things were hectic and fun but the maps allowed you to have a blast where it didn’t feel claustrophobic. Maybe this is simply my lack of MMO experience shinging through.
In the end, Prison of Elders is a lot like Destiny. Something that sounds cool and has a ton of promise and a lot of ways delivers how you want to but there feels to be something rather big missing even if you can’t put your finger on it. Luckily, House of Wolves as whole, with story missions and new Crucible maps, was a real hoot of an experience.